We Want to Know We Mattered

My mother’s day was made over the weekend by a visit from an old friend of my brother’s and his wife. While my brother hasn’t seen this friend in decades, my mom had seen the couple off and on through the years about town – or stopping by in her car to say ‘hello’ if she saw either of them in their yard. She thought the world of them but didn’t necessarily expect they felt even remotely the same.

When Christmas rolled around this past December, and they didn’t receive a card from my mom, it made them consider the last time they had seen her. Several things happened in the aftermath that kept her top of mind. Finally, my brother’s friend drove down by her house and knew immediately that this was no longer my mother’s home.

He went home and got online, started tracking down my brother, who owns a business, and managed to get his contact information. He made a call and they caught up over a 90-minute conversation with the vow of getting together soon. Next up was visiting my mom, now that they knew where she was.

Over the past year and a half, my mom’s life has changed radically. She got hurt, badly, in a fall at the beginning of 2017 and what started out as a simple lunch out with a friend resulted in my mother never going home to live in her house again. Can you imagine? You go out the door for lunch with a friend and never get to live in your house again. And the life you once had, the car you drove, your furniture, a ton of your possessions no longer is yours and, for the most part, because you can’t use them and don’t have space for them anymore.

With all of the changes – and just the process of growing older – I know my mother sometimes questions, like many of us do, what her place in the world has been. How much of what she’s done over the years mattered, and to who? Did she make an impact on anyone? How will she be remembered?

When life grows long and the world grows smaller, it’s hard not to focus on these things. We all want to feel that we have value and matter to others and that we’ll be remembered for those things.

Earlier this year, at a post-holiday gathering, some friends were discussing the passing of so many people that we loved. One friend said that she had been thinking lately about her mortality and what she would want after her death. Whereas once she was in favor of cremation, perhaps with her ashes scattered, she had now changed her mind. She wants a burial, even if it’s to be just her ashes, with a headstone to mark that she had once lived. Otherwise, who would know she had been there?

It was a thoughtful conversation and one that made me think once again about our legacy, our understanding of who we had influenced in some way or made a positive impact on – universal thoughts for sure. We want to know we mattered.

I think back on the weekend. It’s hard to describe the joy that transpired, not just for my mom, but really for me as well, which surprised me. I happened to be on my way down to visit my mom when her surprise guests came to her door. They were kind enough to wait for me to arrive so I could see them, too.

The effect their visit had on my mom, particularly as my brother’s friend recalled times at our family home so many years before, when he’d run into her at the supermarket or when she stopped by their yard, was transformative for her. It allowed her to see that regular daily interactions in her life had become good memories for others, for people she thought so much of and it made her happy.

That they took the time to seek her out, find out what had happened that made her move from her beloved home, came to visit and brought beautiful flowers and shared memories of my brother, of my father and mother, and me as well, made her feel such appreciation and so much joy.

For me, it was emotional as well. The years somehow seemed to melt away. I’d hazard none of us really saw what we look like now but rather someone we remember from so long ago. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of memories regained in just a short time.

I see how much moments like this mean to my mom, who has been blessed by kindness and care from people she’d never realized she’s touched in her life. She continues to make a difference in the lives around her. The former principal of the elementary school, where my mother served as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher at until she was 80, was a resident for a while at the assisted living my mother lives at now. I think my mom’s presence brought this 100-year-old woman to a more present state than she had inhabited for some time, perking up to share stories and memories of a different time in both of their lives.

An old friend of mine’s mother-in-law also came to live at the assisted living and in the short time before her death; she and my mother became good friends. Over a several-months-long span, the two were nearly inseparable and my mother spent time at her bedside in her final weeks. Since that time, her daughter-in-law and son have been extraordinarily thoughtful, sending my mother flowers and letting her know they care about her. It’s thoughtful beyond words – and so unexpected and appreciated by my mom.

These days, this is what matters most to her. Human connection and knowing she matters still – and always has. She’s not much different than most of us.

Next time you’re thinking about someone and what they mean to you, take a minute and let them know. You can’t imagine how much it will mean to them.

Confessions of a Dating Neophyte

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 4.33.03 PM.pngOnce upon a time, many years – heck, decades – ago, I was a teenager dating and I wasn’t particularly good at it. I had a couple of boys I dated for a decent length of time and a handful of guys I went out with once or twice, but I suspect I was a bit more forthright than expected at times, quite a bit of a smartass a good deal of the time and independent enough to not necessarily want a boyfriend all of the time. Come to think of it, it’s pretty much who I still am today.

Like my friends, I had romantic notions of soul mates and everlasting love, but I did not plan to get permanently attached to anyone until I was at least 30. I had things to do. Yet a month before my 17th birthday, a few months into my senior year of high school, I began dating someone I met through a part-time job I had and soon became engulfed in a relationship that would be the pivotal one throughout the majority of my life. He was eight years older than me – a friend of my brother’s – and had just returned to school for his master’s degree in counseling psychology. How this came about and why my parents hadn’t firmly put their collective feet down on such an age difference is still beyond me, but I sense given my rebellious nature and a stubborn mind of my own, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

After dating for a couple of years, he proposed to me and I didn’t accept. Fast forward a year later to another proposal and this time I said yes. A lot of people, my father included, doubted it would last. But it did, for 24 years, until physical and mental illness and circumstances far beyond our control took their toll and divorce became the only feasible course of action – yet one that didn’t break the bond we had or the influence we had on each other’s lives. He remains, in fact, the only man I have ever loved and perhaps his death earlier this year has brought the thought of dating back to the forefront once again.

That’s not to say I haven’t considered it intermittently but it’s been far from an earnest effort. As a mom of four now-grown kids, my primary focus since their father became ill when they were still quite young was on being the best parent I possibly could be for them. While that’s true for most of the parents I know, my situation felt a bit different because I was all they had really. Their dad, as much as he loved them, became incapable of truly being a parent at all and there was no shared custody, no shared responsibility, nothing that either the kids or I could rely on from him. Taking care of us and dealing with everything else in my life, from work to the kids and more, became my focal point.

Some friends and acquaintances touted online dating as the way to go. While I saw plenty of success stories based on meeting that way, I heard lots of horror stories, too, and some pretty darn amusing tales, too. But the thing that bothered me most was  putting myself out there on display publicly (kind of funny given I have no problem writing about my life in blog posts and articles for anyone to see). It just didn’t feel cool. It still doesn’t in spite of giving it a whirl a few times. The profiles seem generic, the questions asked don’t offer responses that are relatable to me and everyone seems to be pushing for things that, to me, should be a natural transition.

I’ve often compared looking for a job and interviewing to dating. That it’s not about someone choosing you to fill a need, but rather both an organization and an individual getting to know one another and seeing if it seems right. But it’s a lot of work even getting to that point, a lot of auditioning and a lot of time spent trying to dazzle someone enough to get to that interview. I’ve gotten several jobs because people knew me and thought I’d be a good fit – it wasn’t an audition; it was organic and natural and it led to some very good professional experiences. I’ve also run the gamut of the countless resumes and cover letters, the multi-layered interview process and incremental exchange of important information. I don’t care much for the latter. Perhaps it explains a lot about how I feel about dating.

I don’t want the process. I want organic. I want someone to meet me somewhere in the regular course of my life, get to know me a bit and think, man, she’s someone I want to know better. A natural transition and it goes both ways. I don’t want to comb through profiles, create outreach messaging, answer or pose carefully chosen platform questions and the rest that goes with it. It just doesn’t interest me – and I’m someone who absolutely loves meeting people and hearing their stories, just not in this context. I’d rather meet someone, find myself a bit fascinated and take it from there – and maybe I will.

I’m not alone in this either. Friends in long-term relationships shudder at the idea of starting all over again and many that are now single, whether it is through divorce or a partner’s death, wouldn’t even consider dating again. They wouldn’t know where to start or whether they’d even want to open their lives again to someone. For them, it’s too much at this point to make that kind of change or even want it. Our lives are good – we’ve worked hard to achieve what we have with the people we most care about already and our lives are full.

My own life has been so busy, what with family, with finishing my bachelor’s and getting my master’s over the past five years, with friends and volunteer projects and work, I feel like I would have had time to carefully schedule someone in maybe every two weeks.

I hear so much of the same from friends – life is definitely good and we feel blessed with what we have, but every now and then, we think, what if? What if we met someone to add to the mix, to bring some extra fun, someone really special to share good things with?

I’ve struggled with that myself, eventually realizing that like anything else, there’s a natural flow that broadens our world and allows what we want to fit in. I just haven’t made a goal of pursuing it or, to be honest, putting myself out there to see what might transpire.

Perhaps part of it is not wanting to be that vulnerable and part of it is that I like my life as it is, but it feels like I might be ready to see what might unfold if I actually let it. I guess I’m opening myself to the possibilities.

Time will tell.

In many ways, I’m no different than I was so long ago, a bit more forthright, yet understanding; still a smartass, but with a real appreciation for other smartasses and a great sense of humor, too; a little too independent for my own good sometimes, but vulnerable as hell. I’m far more confident, more accomplished and experienced in living life, conquering challenges, loving with all of my heart and having street smarts and sass and loyalty that can’t be beat.

I remain the real deal, and I guess I’m open to someone who’s the real deal, too. No bullshit, no auditioning, just someone who cares for and appreciates others, wants to help in whatever ways he can in this world, can laugh at himself and laugh with others, and embraces adventures and magic and the best in those around him – and appreciates independence and music and quiet times, too, and gets how important my family is.

That may be a lot, but it doesn’t seem like too much to me.

What No One Tells You About Aging

With November as the month of my birth, before long my age will have a new designation, which in general means I’m another year older. The truth is we’re all another year older, every single day from the year prior. The only difference on our birthday is the number changes.

For many, especially as the years begin to climb, this becomes a dreaded occasion. People tend to put a premium on youth and forget the importance of each subsequent year. For a while, I may have bought into that mindset. Not anymore.

Here’s why; with every year I have more to offer, to others and myself. I’m smarter, stronger, braver and filled with experiences that I could never have imagined in my relative youth. And I’m not alone. It’s true for each of us, although many choose to focus on what they feel they’ve lost, not what’s been gained.

When I look at musicians or great craftspeople of any kind, I often marvel at the skills that have taken years to hone so mightily. With every nuance, the mastery shown in a simple flick of a tool or hand gesture is magic acquired through hard-achieved experience over time.

While I have no doubt I’ve developed incredible skills and experience throughout my life, perhaps my greatest feat is mastering myself. The years have allowed me to know myself through and through and understand my passions, the foibles (and there are many), who I am and what I want to do. It’s not perfect, and it’s not without its ups and downs. I’m a continual work in progress, and that’s okay.

I have a comfort level with life and most of all, with myself and this is true for so many others I know. Sure, we’re getting older, every day, but we’re good with it and like what we see.

My body doesn’t always operate as smoothly as it once did and the person I am today may not look a thing like I did years ago – that’s fine. But there’s strength in my eyes, solid living in my face and signs of my journey in every facet of skin, mind and bones.

What no one tells you about aging is that if you’re lucky enough to have the privilege, you’ll have so much to fall back on in hard times and to build on for the years ahead. You have great stories to recall, incredible people and experiences to reflect on and such a broad range of living to draw from no matter what comes your way. It’s not always easy, and it certainly comes fast – but if you’re busy mourning what you think you’ve lost, it will go by in a flash without any appreciation for who you are now.

A decade ago I met a man who told me his age in the course of our conversation. I laughingly protested he couldn’t possibly be that old since he looked years younger. Instead of feeling flattered, he became indignant insisting he was indeed that old and the phrase that he used to tell me has stuck with me ever since. He didn’t say that he was 44, but rather that he had made 44 years. Made 44 years, as if it was a true accomplishment to boast about – and he was right, it was. We all don’t get that privilege, and every year I mark is a real privilege and a huge accomplishment.

When you’re ready to bemoan your advancing years, consider instead how lucky you are to get this far and what you’ve achieved along the way. When you take stock of the gains rather than focusing on perceived losses, you’ll be amazed by how incredible it truly is to get older.

We, too.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.37.53 PM.pngAbout a year or so ago, a group of us decided to go out for a drink and some apps after a meeting for a nonprofit organization we support. While there were a half dozen or so men on the event team at the time, that particular night only one decided to go out with six or seven of us – all women – to a nearby restaurant. Settling into the bar area, in comfy leather chairs and a loveseat, we quickly ordered drinks and selected some food to share.

As usually happens, especially in this group, conversation flowed freely and before long, talk turned to an experience one of the women had in the workplace, a situation that left her feeling belittled and disrespected. Suddenly, each of us began sharing experiences we had been through, mostly on the work front, but at different stages of our lives, too. Remarkably, given the disparity of our ages, our backgrounds and the work we do, the stories were very similar – or maybe it wasn’t remarkable at all. The commonalities weren’t surprising, nor was it surprising that each of us had far more than one story to tell.

The lone male in our group – a very dear friend, who had once been my boss – sat next to me in shock. While the stories felt commonplace for us, they were a revelation to him. To be honest, he had been so quiet during this conversation that I almost forgot he was even there. Suddenly he shifted in his seat, and I’m not sure if he sighed or exhaled in exhaustion with all that he had heard. We turned to him and he shook his head sadly, saying that on behalf of good men everywhere, he wanted to apologize for what we had experienced. He just couldn’t believe this had been the norm for us, yet he it hadn’t even been on his radar. It blew his mind.

And it blows my mind, every time I hear stories, every time something atrocious hits the news and how readily it’s been accepted throughout generations upon generations. As young girls, we’re told what to be careful of, what not to do or say, what to expect and what has to be tolerated – tolerated because it hasn’t mattered enough to put an end to it, for those beyond ourselves to say, “This is unacceptable.”

Like most women, I have my share of stories. I don’t need to give details.

I have a daughter. I have three sons. I expect each to treat everyone with care and respect – and for each of them to also feel empowered to tell anyone who tries to demean them, “This is unacceptable.”

It’s time that each of us feels empowered to say the same and know that others stand with us, ready to have necessary conversations, never averting our eyes to what is difficult to see.

What We Didn’t Know

We always knew this would end badly; there were no good solutions and never the promise of a cure.

What we didn’t know was how it would come about or when the end might be.

Death is tricky, and even in days of waning health and absolute signs of what was to come, strength can arrive from seemingly nowhere and final days sometimes become final months.

We knew it would be hard, knew it would be painful, knew it would release feelings that had been buried for years, and recognized that we didn’t know what else might erupt.

What we didn’t know was just how much it really would hurt.

We knew it was for the best. There were too many years filled with too much suffering, too many tears – his and, of course, ours – the pain of his illness and our collective loss, of seeing a life taken away from all that he loved. We wanted to ease his pain, perhaps to ease our own.

We just didn’t know how hard it would be to say goodbye to someone who left us so long ago.

What we really didn’t know, didn’t even suspect, was that with his death, John would suddenly become himself again – the person we knew so well, missed so much and hadn’t seen in so many years.

When someone is sick, like he was, for such a long time, life becomes reactive, a series of phone calls, medical and managed care facilities, emails, solving problems, taking care of needs, dealing with issues and never feeling like you can ever possibly do enough. Mostly because you can’t. So you do what you can and take care of what’s in front of you and all the best parts of a life you once lived become background noise, seldom listened to, examined even less, because it hurts too much and there is too much in the present to attend to.

What we didn’t know is that in the end, there was nothing else to focus on, except the life we once lived – together – and the memories, and the pictures; so many pictures, bringing back sensations and smiles and the recognition of a life once lived with joy, with a lot of love, lots of laughter and the chaos of many kids and too little time. Yet we didn’t know then how little time we really had, but even if we did, I don’t think we could have cherished it any more than we once did.

We knew once John was gone, we could finally begin to grieve, but we didn’t know what form that grief might take. So tonight, out of nowhere, I wept in earnest, the first time with no restraint, for the husband that’s gone, the life we led, the family we had together and the father and grandfather that would have loved it all so. I miss him so much and have for so long.

What we didn’t know, although we thought we did, was that somewhere inside of us, we clung to the hope that someday he’d be back, be part of our family again, even if we had to have known it would never be. Illness can delude you, give you a glimpse now and then of the person still there. It’s brief and it’s painful because it offers hope where none should really be.

We knew we had lots of love surrounding us – from family, friends that feel like family and even people we barely know well. We could feel it, even before this, and it magnified as the days blended into one.

And as that last day began to come and we finally knew that this was really it, not an illusion or one more close call, what we didn’t know was that almost 20 years would somehow melt away and the worst of it all didn’t matter anymore. Here we were all these years later, remembering decades ago as if they were yesterday.

In death, John became ours again. In life, we’ll miss him every day.

On the Precipice

DSC_0011This has been a difficult week.

In most ways, it’s been no different than any other. Each of us in the family went to work, took care of personal responsibilities and even had a bit of social time together. We made plans for a family dinner over the weekend, and perhaps even an afternoon at a N.H. fair.

But in between, there have been tears – and a few adult beverages. There have been hugs that felt tighter, laughter that seemed a bit too necessary and memories shared and sometimes quickly swept away. It hurts less if we don’t think too much.

Yet, we can’t stop thinking about what’s going on. Can’t stop thinking about what’s been – and most of all, we think about how much longer this all will be and how it will end.

Here’s the thing – when someone in your family is gravely ill, the kind of sickness that’s gotten significantly worse over the last decade, when you witness what life has done to him and wish there was a way to make it all stop, even when that person is in hospice care, there is no guarantee that person you love will soon have any peace.

In early June my children’s father entered into hospice care, a bit surprisingly, at least to us, even though we had been watching his agonizing decline for such a long time. This past winter brought a fairly severe injury and surgery, and he’s been increasingly less active since. What we see now is barely a glimmer of who and what he once had been – and with each day, there’s a bit of improvement, a bit of decline, a bit more decline, then perhaps a better day, although at this point, what really can be considered better?

We’ve been in a holding pattern for so many years. No one but our immediate family can even imagine it all – and we share it with each other in ways that run deep and run strong.

The greatest tragedy of our collective lives has not been just losing this person, but losing him incrementally over the course of so many, many years. He’s been gone for us for so long, yet his physical presence, while just barely, is still here.

Earlier this week, we met again with hospice care providers, who offered kind words, spoke of discontinuing medications, procured funeral home information and yet, none of us have a window into the length of this journey. This man is stubborn, but he may finally be ready to let go in the months ahead.

As a family, we may soon face that final loss, the acknowledgment perhaps of what we’ve felt for so long. We’ve never truly had a chance to grieve as we experienced one thing after another over the past 20 years, focusing instead on holding things together, finding solutions and pushing emotions as much as we could to the side. That’s not to say emotions haven’t run strong; that we haven’t had our own mini-breakdowns and crises of the heart. To feel anything at all sometimes is to begin to feel it all – and to get through it has almost pushed us to the point of desensitization.

That seems melodramatic, but it’s been 20 years of appointments, of medical tests, of more and more medication, psych evaluations, cognitive testing, of medicine mismanagement and misusage, of supportive devices and therapies, hospitalizations and adult daycare, of increasingly difficult behaviors, of safety issues, of car accidents, of impairment, of anxiety and physical harm, of managed care facilities, of brain surgery, of a family pushed to the very limits of love and acceptance and a man who was loved dearly who never accepted his illness or realized that no matter what happened to him he was someone of great value to this world with so much still to contribute. The list could go on and on, and the heartache could match it along the way.

There have been countless discussions around long tables, with caregivers and caretakers, with medical and mental health professionals, with good people often doing the best they can, with little to offer that could ever change a thing – and we’ve told his story, told our stories, offered medical history, becoming a bit more jaded and disheartened each time.

This past week has been a difficult one – one more table, one more discussion, some tears, another emotional visit and time together as a family. We’re on the precipice now, holding our breaths not sure when the ledge will break. We know all too well how painful the plummet will be.

Indisputable Proof

20160123122211_01I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning and reorganizing lately, some of it because I have a little bit of extra time on my hands and even more, because it’s way overdue. It’s easy to get in a rut maintaining a household, not making too many changes and yet as time goes by, there’s so much less that I need. What’s most amazing is no matter how much I clean and discard, there is still so much more to deal with – it’s incredible how much one accumulates over 30+ years with a family.

As part of the process, I’ve been cleaning out old photos, and coming across lots of slides. Early on, long before digital cameras, we took a ton of photos with a Minolta camera and generally shot slides since processing was so pricey. The best ones we made prints from and put them in albums, but all these years later, even the marginal shots are precious and worth saving. So, I’ve been scanning slides, saving them digitally and even introduced my mom to the effort to help. Sadly, there were many slides that haven’t withstood the years, which makes it even more important to capture what I have while I can.
Just as I accumulated a ton of material items over the years, I have even more in the way of memories. Some have lain dormant until the visual reminder sparked those memories. Like many of the objects in the house, filed and boxed away for safekeeping or convenience, I did the same with many of the things that came my way – putting them in boxes to unwrap later, I guess, for when I had the detachment of time to take them all in.

I’ve grown so used to life as it now is that I sometimes forget what my life once was – and as I scanned slides and viewed many of the images with my mom this past weekend, so many memories came alive again.

I often tell myself that while my life had been pretty special when my kids were young, I also know that the distance from those years often lends a rosier vantage point than maybe it really was. But as I looked at pictures from my late teen years, from the early days when I was dating my one-day husband and the earliest years of our marriage, the proof is indisputable. It wasn’t just pretty special – it was extraordinary in so many ways.

20160113223300_01A truth I can’t dismiss is this: I had a genuine love story. So many happy times and so much love. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect for us. And out of that love, our story grew to encompass four kids that brought such joy to us – and we had so many adventures together for so many years.

I think I pushed some of this away for a while; it doesn’t hurt as much if you lessen the magnitude of the loss. I made up scenarios in my head that told me that had some of the heartbreaking stuff – illness, issues related to that, separation and more – not happened, it still didn’t mean that our lives would have continued to be as good as they once were. But it’s hard to know that, hard to guess what two people might have been like in the future based on whom they were once upon a time. So it was easier to second-guess who we had been, what we once had.

But there we were, once upon a time, in full color across my laptop screen. Pictures don’t always show the truth, but these have back-stories to corroborate what had been hidden away in boxes, in a dark closet at the end of the hall.

And as I remember it all, I can now smile as I do. Life seldom unfolds as we planned, but I am blessed to have all that I had and still do.

Sleeping My Way to Wisdom

file0002022534203I sleep a lot lately.

Far more than I have in years and years. Maybe I’m just getting old. Or finally catching up on all the sleep I hadn’t gotten for years – or maybe I just really appreciate the luxuriousness of a long sleep or stolen nap. It simply feels decadent to curl up on the couch mid-afternoon or stay in bed until quite late.

I have a great bed. It’s more than 30 years old, as is the mattress, and at a time when it’s more than far overdue for replacement it instead becomes more comfortable by the year. Go figure. With two mattress pads, wonderful 1,200-thread count sheets and cozy blankets, is it any wonder that I don’t want to leave it?

For many years, I felt like I could never find the right pillow. Now that I have not just one, but two, that I absolutely love, I find myself taking one along when I travel and a favorite blanket, too. No matter where I am, I have the feel of home and the comfort I’ve grown to love. It still leaves room to enjoy whatever I encounter, but I’ve got a backup plan just in case.

And because I’m sleeping more, I’m dreaming more; or at least remembering my dreams in ways I don’t necessarily a good deal of the time. Usually the ones I remember in more recent years have been stress-related dreams, and I can identify those readily by the subject matter. You know the ones, in which you wake up and wonder if it really happened and what precipitated such a tense dream? It’s usually not hard to tell – and those sorts of dreams are great ways to identify the stress in our lives and hopefully do what we can to resolve it.

I’ve had a rather interesting occurrence in a couple of dreams lately, which once upon a time might have indicated major stress and yet this time around it’s certainly not. It’s an odd one, but twice within the last month I’ve had a dream in which I’ve been naked in everyday circumstances in public (not anything, truly, I’d ever want to do or subject others to, mind you).

Most dream interpretations would see this as a vulnerable position, something triggering embarrassment, shamefulness or allowing others to see faults in some capacity. Yet, in both of these dreams, there was nothing like that. It wasn’t like I was somehow showcasing myself, but rather that I was just going about life as if this was totally cool and nothing to give a second thought.

The first dream didn’t really hit home at all. I remember just thinking, “Hmmm…that’s odd.” I didn’t really give it a second thought. After the second – and different – dream happened this past week, it gave me pause. What message was this conveying to me? I came to this: Perhaps it’s acceptance of myself and who I am, that I’m not afraid to be vulnerable, to allow people to see me – flaws and all – and see that’s just who I am. And it’s enough, which is why I feel such ease both in the dream and when I wake up.

So I guess all this sleep is a pretty good thing – in fact, it may even be naptime once again.







The Best-laid Plans

KeysI had a planned vacation day today, one which initially I thought would be a beach day. Seeing how the weather was not supposed to be favorable, rain off and on throughout the day, I decided to do something I seldom do: plan a day at home to actually accomplish some well-overdue household tasks. It was a practical sort of day – one that would leave me feeling just as great as a day at the beach and with far more of a sense of accomplishment. Man, the things I was going to get done…

I got a letter in the mail last Friday, from my doctor’s office, saying it was time to schedule an annual blood test, one that I’d need to fast for. Great, I’ll schedule it first thing Wednesday and then go out to breakfast after. I’d start the day accomplishing something immediately.

Last night, I had a meeting after work, and grabbed a yogurt parfait for a quick snack prior, thinking I’d pick up some dinner on the way home. I already had a chicken satay from a particularly favorite restaurant in mind. The meeting ran long, and I lingered after. It was past 9 pm and I was on my way home, talking on the phone to my mom, when I realized, shoot, I have to fast for 12 hours and I’m already at the 12-hour mark. UGH, and I was starving. I considered rescheduling the appointment  and then kept thinking, no, I really need to get this out of the way. I had a very small snack when I got home thinking the world wouldn’t end if I fasted for eleven-and-a-half hours instead of 12. I’d go to bed early and not think about being hungry.

Except one of my dogs decided he’d stay out longer at his last call for the evening outdoor trip and I ended up trying to doze on the couch so I’d hear his front-door bark to come back in. And that lasted a while. And then he decided to wake up and need to go out a couple of times during the night, and as I kept trying to fall back to sleep in the muggy, muggy night air enveloping me, the well-rested night turned into a very drowsy awakening. I set my alarm early and had a back-up alarm an hour later – which apparently I shut off and went back to sleep. Until 9:03 am. As I gazed, glassy-eyed, at my phone, the time quickly registered and I jumped up and immediately called the doctor’s office to see if I could still come. Turns out that although I was given an appointment, I didn’t really need one. Fabulous.

I got ready quickly, ran out the door, and went back to ensure I locked it. Well, locked it I did and with my car keys on the table next to the front door. I reached for my phone to call my son, who had slept elsewhere the night before, and saw that I was dangerously low on battery power, nearly ready for complete power loss. My car doors were locked and I had no spare key on me. Fortunately, my son answered on the first couple of rings, but had to find a ride to get to the house. And he did, finding my situation kind of comical (although I’m sure not when I woke him up).

I got to the doctor, signed in at the lab, only to find I had to actually go upstairs and someone would take care of me there, not the usual procedure, but at least I was finally back on track. By this point, I was unbelievably hungry – and the sun was shining. It was pretty darn near a beach day for a while. Nevertheless, I persevered. I was ready for breakfast and then a day filled with tasks crossed off the list.

I ordered a delicious breakfast, and took real pleasure in every bite, applying apple jelly to every crumb of the toast and savoring each home fry with my omelet. As I finished up, the server brought my check, saying to take my time. Not me, I was on a mission today, and quickly reached into my purse for my wallet – except, it wasn’t there. My bag is deep yellow, as is my wallet. I was sure I missed it. I looked again, digging deep this time, and suddenly flashing on my wallet sitting on my kitchen table. I had laid it there as I pulled my phone charger out of my bag before leaving the house. For a minute, I wondered if my debit card was still with sunglasses in the case in my bag – and remembered that after having it there all weekend during beach days, I thought it prudent to return it to my wallet yesterday. What to do?

Fortunately, I was familiar with the owner, a former classmate of one of my kids, and asked if I could speak with him for a minute. I told him how embarrassed I was, but I didn’t have my wallet, and would gladly write a check if he wanted or could return to pay the check. He agreed to the latter, telling me if not, he had plenty of dishes to wash. When I got in the car, I again called my son, who was nearby and asked if he had cash on him. He didn’t, but was planning to go to the same restaurant in a short while and would take care of the check, which I now had in my purse. I told him I’d drop it off and would text him when I got to where he was.

As I approached the house, he walked from the backyard, smiling. He said, “It’s like you and I have changed places today.” And I had to agree. I handed off the check and said that I was pretty sure that my wallet was on the kitchen table and he looked very amused and told me that maybe I needed to be a bit more responsible with my things – a statement said many times by me to him over the years. Once again, I couldn’t help but agree.

When I got home, I decided to read Rolling Stone for a bit, which had arrived earlier in the mail while I waited to get back in the house to get my keys. I settled in to a big leather chair that I bought months ago and seldom just relax in. I thought, you know, it’s a day off, relax for a while, actually take the time to read more than one quick feature and run off to do something else. Take the time. You’ve got the whole day (well, another half a day at least).

At one point, still feeling hungry, I got up to grab a bag of crunchy veggie sticks, and as I set myself back down in the chair, I realized the pillow that I had behind my head in the recliner had slipped. I reached up with the hand with the bag of veggie sticks to straighten it, and as I did, I saw the contents were dropping out across the floor. Why this didn’t dawn on me immediately to use the other hand is beyond me, but it was pretty much typical of the day thus far and I burst out laughing very loud.

And I thought about all I planned to accomplish, staining woodwork, perhaps painting something, thinking about the muggy weather and the amount of time it would need to truly dry in this weather – and I wondered about whether I should touch anything today that might prove to be really messy. And I did some housework instead. I tidied up, did some laundry, cleaned the bathroom, sorted out mail and generally kept away from anything I could get into trouble with. I didn’t accomplish a lot, but I did accomplish some things, and I got in some time to relax, watched a movie, read a magazine, got a jump on two new courses I start next week and caught up on a lot of email correspondence. They might not be huge things, but I got them done just the same. So much for the best-laid plans.

As My Daughter Turns 30

1053374_10152004907646959_788614697_o30 years ago today, ten days overdue, I wondered if my soon-to-be-born baby would ever arrive. I wasn’t feeling great, but had been told by an OB/Gyn standing in for my own doctor that day that I most likely had a stomach bug. “No, I had similar symptoms when I went into labor with my son.” He wasn’t buying it. And I wasn’t buying his response either.

However, I went home and sat on the couch that evening, no labor in sight – some stomach cramping, but nothing that stopped me from polishing off half a pint of Haagen Daz sorbet. My son was asleep and my husband taking a bath. I remember shouting from the living room around 10 p.m., “I feel like these stomach cramps have some sort of pattern to them.” Per usual, he didn’t think I was in labor. (This reaction became consistent behavior with all four births). A half-hour later, he was calling his parents to come watch our son and we were on our way to the hospital shortly thereafter.

My labor, at the hospital, consisted of me running to the bathroom several times while contractions increased rapidly. I had momentary fear I’d be become one of those moms who actually gave birth on a toilet (insert your own shudder here). Not more than a few pushes later, my beautiful, 10-lb. baby girl arrived. At the time, women were still moved from labor rooms to delivery. Ridiculously, we traveled over quickly, I was hoisted on the delivery table and Marissa Skye made her debut in what seemed like moments later, Even at nearly 11 days overdue by this hour, I never imagined I’d give birth to a child that looked at least two weeks old – and she was perfect. I’m sure the other babies in the nursery were wondering, “What’s up with this toddler? Why’s she here?”

1052189_10152004908231959_369798622_oHer birth was indicative of her life thus far as a daughter. Not a lot of fuss or drama. Throughout the years, I’ve heard any number of horror stories about arguments and sass, tears cried (by both parties) and how rough it is to raise a daughter. I don’t have much to add to that conversation, except this: The toughest part of raising my daughter is knowing what the world can sometimes be like for a woman – the expectations, the disrespect and the vulnerabilities she’ll experience. The most tears I’ve cried are in knowing I’ve sometimes failed her – in spite of my best intentions – and in preparing for her to move out in her senior year of college. I cried for me, not her, because she had become this incredible adult I was so proud of and loved so much, but time moved far too fast for my liking. She was ready, and already older than I was when I left home, but I knew how much I was going to miss her.

1025317_10152004907466959_246878010_oThroughout the years, she’s welcomed me in her life, even during the far more private teen years, and I feel so blessed by how much I’ve been able to share of her life, even now as she approaches 30. She’s made wise choices, worked hard to earn her bachelor’s – going to school three days a week and working full-time the other four, married the person who she’s loved since she was 16 and earlier last year, became a mother.

As often happens, her birth experience was not quite what she expected and she learned the day prior to his birth that her overdue son was following in her footsteps – yet he was topping the scales at over 11 lbs. A C-section would follow – and it was in the hours after that I marveled at how natural it was to see she and her husband as parents. I was humbled in the days to come by her resilience, her lack of complaint when surely she was in great pain and how brave she had been throughout the week prior.

It has been amazing to watch her become the mom she has to my beautiful grandson. For someone who never had much interest in children, it’s like she has been doing this all of her life. Her love for her son has amplified all of her best qualities and added a confidence to her personality of which she probably isn’t even aware.

11249162_815036344616_5263709167496426279_nSo she is about to turn 30, and it tugs at my heart. It’s bittersweet as I miss the girl she once was, but I’m so excited for the woman she now is and the possibilities ahead of her. As any parent will say, time goes by too quickly, far too quickly. Yet, I remember so many moments, many that she may never recall – and those are the moments that sustain me as time continues to spiral us forward. I still see her sweet smile – mirrored always in her eyes, too – and the little ponytails, and the love for every new pair of sneakers. Sometimes her long hair is in a braid and I can’t help but reach out and feel its texture, hold it for a second in my hand, remembering all the mornings braiding her hair so long ago. I see the care she takes in choosing new sneakers, even now, and how her smile is still one of my favorite things – and especially now seeing it in her son too.

I’m so very proud of the woman my daughter has become. She’s stronger than she knows, smarter than she realizes and so very capable of handling whatever life brings her way. She has taken on far more than many women twice her age – acting as a guardian for a chronically ill parent and taking on the role of the family organizer so much of the time. I rest easy knowing that she is the next generation foundation that will always keep our family close.

Happy 30th birthday, Marissa Skye! It is such a privilege to be your mother. I love you so much. 

Fourteen Years Gone

24153_419790996958_1767782_n-2My father passed away fourteen years ago today, and it strikes me that he has now been gone more than a quarter of my life. Something about that is beyond bizarre to me, and yet his influence is felt every single day. I feel him in my attitude, the way I talk, and the manner in which I approach life itself.

So much has happened since he died – so many things I wish I could tell him. He wouldn’t say much in response. Never a big conversationalist, he would most likely nod or smile, or scowl dependent on the subject matter. He could get exasperated pretty easy, but I like to think he would have mellowed a bit more with age.

My mother always says that my father would never have survived in these times. He’d find them too upsetting, the world too crazy. I don’t know – he was pretty realistic. As an engineer, he looked at life strategically and was a straight shooter in his response to what life handed him. Or maybe she just knew him so much better than me and perhaps his failing health was in response to the world around him and his internal strife in viewing it.

Maybe I just idealize the man that has always meant the most to me. Continue reading “Fourteen Years Gone”

The Peacefulness of Gently Falling Snow

IMG_0844We’ve had a lot of snow lately. That’s a bit of an understatement really. We’ve had more than a lot of snow in the past week or so – and it’s snowing out now. I looked outside a while ago and thought, “Hmm, is it snowing or simply wind blowing it off the roof?” Within a few minutes, the gentle flakes had escalated to a greater flow from above and it’s snowing in earnest now.

Perhaps because I’m not greatly disadvantaged by the snow – no shoveling really (thank god for strong sons, even with just one at home still, and the kindness of a neighbor with a snowblower), the ability to work from home in inclement weather and a warm home – I don’t mind it. I live in New Hampshire and I expect it to snow. It’s when it doesn’t that it doesn’t feel right. Continue reading “The Peacefulness of Gently Falling Snow”